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OVERRIDE “STAIRCASE WIT”

OVERRIDE “STAIRCASE WIT”

We’ve all experienced it, that d-d-d-duh moment when somebody snarks at you or disses you big-time in front of the smirking crowd and your mind blanks out.

Half an hour later — or maybe, if it’s really bad, three days later (after gnawing over the mauling) — your inner Clever Dude or Dudette finally kicks in and hands you a totally brilliant, absolutely useless “I-should’ve-said” come-back thought.  ARGH!

It’s as if you’ve turned into a particularly dumb axolotl, an aquatic salamander like the one in this YouTube video, published by Wonder Ffly in 2017:

The brilliant orphan remark remains in your head, a reminder of a might-have-been.

And then there are the times when El Smart Mouth runs rampant, blurting out some bit of devastating dimwittedness that makes it past your lips before your brain engages.

A whole series of trauma-dramas ensues.  The result is hurt feelings all around and you feeling like a cake left out in the rain.  YIPES!

That smart-ass, much-regretted remark that you’d like to disown stays with you as well, always available for replay when you’re feeling low and want to get really disheartened by the dumbness of you.

learn-to-shut-your-mouth
“Learn to Shut Your Mouth” by Juli via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The funny thing about both of those social missteps is that they are the result of the same brain glitch.

I notice that you are more prone to experiencing the first if you are a quiet and slightly neurotic introvert.  The second is more likely if you tend to be an irrepressible extrovert.

If you’re an ambi-vert (sometimes intro- and sometimes extro-), you apparently get to experience both on a regular basis.

The other weird thing is that both of these types of conversationally induced regrets have the same name — “the spirit of the staircase” or “staircase wit” — in two different languages, French and German.

However, the French one refers to the first while the German one is a designation for the second type of remorseful kicking yourself in the head.

The credit for the naming of the first type of brain-freeze is said to belong to 18th-century philosopher and writer Denis Diderot.

At a fancy dinner party among a crew of glittering personalities, Diderot (an up-and-coming bright light who was apparently suffering from a touch of Imposter Syndrome and feeling a bit self-conscious and afraid of looking foolish) was challenged on some point or other.

He blanked out.  Everybody laughed.

Feeling humiliated, Diderot left the party soon afterwards.

On his way down the sweeping long staircase to the front door, he kept replaying the embarrassing moment.  Just as he reached the bottom of the stairs, he found the perfect retort.

petit-staircase
“petit staircase” by andy lapham via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Should he turn around, march back up those stairs and deliver his witty come-back?  Of course not.  It was too late.

In one of his published journals, Diderot wrote, “A sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he reaches] the bottom of the stairs.”

An (anonymous) reader of the journal coined the actual phrase, “l’esprit d’escalier,” the “spirit of the staircase.”

The German version of “staircase wit” is “treppenwitz”This one, however, describes the remorse that ensues when inappropriate words shoot out of your mouth before your mind is properly engaged or you do a body-move that’s taken wrong.

The German version is used to refer to an incident when you say or do something that, in retrospect, was a bad joke…a spontaneous lame blurt or mimed reaction that plummets like a lead balloon.

The aftermath of either one is not fun, no matter what you call it.

Here’s a cute YouTube video, ”Have You Ever Come Up With a Comeback Too Late?,” published in 2018 by The Real Daytime TV where the girls, Tamera Mowrey-Housley, Jeannie Mai, Loni Love and Adrienne Houghton, discuss both forms of regrettable mouth failures.

WHY THE O-M-G HAPPENS….

The guys in the white lab coats say the reason our brains sometimes either gets stuck in neutral or goes to sleep at the wheel is mostly because each of us actually have three interconnected brains in our heads.

These brains developed over time during our evolutionary history to handle distinctly different functions.  All of them are hard-wired together in a way that’s part of our body-survival promotion package.

brain
Brain” by AJ Cann via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The most primitive of our trio of brains is commonly called the “lizard brain.”  It’s responsible for monitoring and regulating our everyday body needs and it’s pretty automatic.  It is also the part of our brain that responds to threats mostly by freezing.

Our so-called “mammalian brain” is where our amygdalae, our emotion regulators, reside.

An amygdala is an almond-shaped cluster of neuron cells tucked deep inside the temporal lobe (the technical term for “mammalian brain”).  There’s one set in each brain hemisphere.

This very short YouTube video published in 2016 by Neuroscientifically Challenged gives a simplistic overview of the amygdala and some of its functions.

As the 50-cent tour video says, our amygdalae process and integrate our physical reactions to emotional stimuli — especially fear and anger as well as more positive emotions — and affect our emotional behaviors and motivations

The amygdala has been compared to a smoke detector.  It is best known for triggering assorted neurochemicals that help us mobilize our bodies in times of danger.  It has also been known to hijack your brain functions at the most inconvenient times.

Whenever situations start getting heavy, the lizard and the mammalian brains take over.  They are why the freeze/flight/fight responses happen.

Most of the time our executive-functioning “cortical brain” is in charge.  This brain is a relatively recent development for us humans.

Of all the brains we are carrying around, the cortical brain is the most complex.  It takes care of things like logic, language, telling time and playing with mind-constructs like strategies and tactics and stuff like that.

Because of the cortical brain, all of our multi-faceted and varied interactions and connections with other people and the rest of the world are possible.

However, whenever you feel threatened, that feeling sets off your amygdala, which freaks out.  Your body reacts immediately.

All of the “unnecessary” features and functions shut down.  Language, time-sense, critical thinking and social engagement skills don’t work so well any more.

Stressful situations tend to dump us out of our high-functioning cortical brain – the part that is most useful for assessing all of the variables of a situation – right into war-mode or rabbit-mode.

brainade
“Brainade!” by Emilio Garcia via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Your digestive system, peripheral vision, hearing, and every other non-essential organic function shuts down as your body prepares itself to either fight, flee, or freeze.

It doesn’t matter if the threat is not a physical one.  Any emotional turmoil can (and often does) trigger this reaction.

WHY ALL OF THIS MATTERS

The important thing about these findings, I think, is knowing that “staircase wit”, in all of its permutations, is something that is a built-in part of your physical self.

This means that you do actually have the ability to affect and, perhaps, change what happens naturally in your body.

It points to the possibility of training yourself to be less governed by the physical realities of your brain wiring in the same way that you can train your body’s muscles to be stronger, faster and more agile.

According to the smarty pants (as well as the ancient wise-guys and every communication expert who ever lived), it is entirely possible to rewire your brains and gain a more controlled approach in your stressful interactions with other people and better handle the vicissitudes of stressful head-games and avoid conversational regrets.

Just as there is an incredible variety of systems and methods to improve your muscles’ capabilities, there are mountains of books and courses and seminars and classes and workshops about how to rewire your brain and fine-tune your mental reflexes and such.

There are piles of yoga and meditation techniques.

You can repeat affirmations and do any number of spiritual practices of assorted varieties.

There are “improv” and other theatrical techniques and systems.

There are martial arts – both physical and mental.

It goes on and on.

One of the best compilations I’ve ever seen of tips and such for successfully constructing quick-witted comebacks is one I ran across in www.wikihow.com.

Click on this button for that:

click-here

Pick one.  They all do work.

There are, you will notice, a few caveats along with all the tips.

Be aware that how well any of these systems, strategies, techniques and hacks work for you depends on whether your personal brain hardwiring suits and supports the system you choose to implement.

The efficacy of a particular system also depends on the quality of your practice and of your intention.

Building new and improved neural pathways involves exactly the same kinds of processes as building big muscles.

And, just like building big muscles, it does take time and practice and perseverance and consistency and so on and so forth.

Brain neural pathways persist.  They take time to build and they take many, many repetitions to re-route.

bucharest
“Bucharest” by Andrei Rosca via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

CHOOSING YOUR ANTIDOTE

How you exorcise your “Spirit of the Staircase” and mitigate that pesky “Staircase Wit” does start with your intention.

You can choose to be the Come-back Kid – the clever one with the quick quip and the rollicking pyrotechnics on tap who is good at entertaining the masses.

No longer will you have to sit on the sidelines taking the slings and arrows thrown at you, mutely bleeding.  As the lively, agile Come-back Kid, you can dodge and duck and throw those slings and arrows right on back.

You could choose to be a Magus or Aristo guy or gal with the Teflon-coated power-sphere built up of personal presence and charisma that makes a shell around you and repels those rude-and-nasty barbs.  You can rise above it all.

Or you could just be your own, plain self and see where that one goes.

(Actually, that last one is probably the hardest one of all.  How many of us actually know who we really are?)

NOBODY CAN TELL YOU WHICH TO CHOOSE

A lot of the effectiveness of any of these systems and techniques depends, as well, on how good you are at reading a situation.

This YouTube video, “How to Stand Up For Yourself,” published in 2018 by intuitive counselor, author and psychotherapist Jodi Aman, points this out.

For me, the most important point Aman makes in this video is the one where you choose not to take whatever another person says or does personally.  This opens up a wider range of options for responding and leaves a lot of room for the Creative to move around in.

ONE MORE TAKE ON THE MATTER

My own personal favorite is this YouTube video, “Verbal Jiu-Jitsu,” which features Sifu Tim Tackett at the 2016 Combat Submission Wrestling Association World Conference, published in 2017 by Robert Burgee.

 

I do agree.  Avoiding a dumb fight is always a very good strategy and one of the best forms of self-defense.

As an old, gnarly dude-friend of mine used to say, “Masters don’t have to fight.  They just aren’t there.”

Here’s a poem I wrote after one minor motor-mouth incident.   (Like everybody else, I’m still working on it.)


OOPS!

 

Sometimes I forget

That golden, gleaming pride

Is all that holds some folks together,

The armor that surrounds

The layers of illusion wrapped

Around a heart too tender for

Exposure to the light of day

And the cold winds that

Blow out of the void,

A heart shrinking from the

Merest brush with uncertainty.

 

My bad.

 

I know that anger,

The anger of a quaking heart.

I know that samurai glare,

The one that’s meant to wither

And desolate the world,

A reminder of a warrior’s power

And glory on display,

A product of the Legend looming large.

 

Been there.

Done that.

 

Now thoughts of Ozymandias dance in my head,

Of stories that lie scattered and forgotten,

Covered by the sands of Time.

 

I’ve been buffeted too long, I think,

By winds of uncertainty.

I’ve grown calluses where my scared should be.

 

It’s one of those side effects of

Standing naked in the light,

One the wise guys neglect to tell you about:

You get so used to being scared that

It starts tasting like hot chocolate.

 

Sorry, eh?

I nevah mean for make you feel bad….

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture: “Conversation” by Vladimir Shioshvili via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
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PERSONAL BRANDING JAMMIN’ — TAKE 2

PERSONAL BRANDING JAMMIN’ — TAKE 2

Try it.  Google “personal branding.”

Wo.  See that?  The little search ‘bots retrieve 297 MILLION results!

Since leadership guru Tom Peters first presented the concept of marketing yourself and your career just like a brand in that article, “The Brand Called You” for Fast Company magazine in 1997, the thing has developed some legs and has taken off running in all directions.

Click this button to read the article its own self:click-here

A whole industry has grown up around the idea.  The multitude of human potential advice-mongers keeps telling us that mega-success comes from self-packaging and telling a better, hand-crafted story than the next guy.

FOCUSING ON THE GIFT-WRAPPING

Before Peters dropped the PB-bomb, typical do-it-yourself self-help management techniques that were bandied back and forth were about self-improvement and developing inner qualities of character and all that other old-school, boring stuff.

Now, it seems, it’s all about self-packaging and “controlling” your image and massaging your message.

One of the best YouTube videos I’ve seen about brand strategizing is this one, published in 2011 by BINA LA, featuring veteran marketer and brand promulgator Sasha Strauss, the founder and manager of the consulting firm, Innovation Protocol.  In it, he gives “$100,000 of Brand Strategy Advice” to a roomful of up-and-coming peeps.

It’s a wonderful, rollicking talk.  It touches on all the points about how, you too, can be a brand.  Woo-hoo!

(Notice, especially, that he says the big companies spend a heck of a lot of money and buy up a lot of people’s time and talent to work this thing.  Okay.  Onward.)

WHY “THEY” SAY IT SHOULD MATTER TO YOU

We keep getting bombarded by the same message:  We have to stand out from the crowd.

Repeatedly we are admonished:  We need to create buzz-i-ness.

We need to be seen.  Our ideas must be heard.  The social media – that insta-FB-tweet-post-pin algorithmic meta-dance — will take us to the place where we will be the Center of Attention.

And that, it says here, will get us to being showered by the Big, Big Bucks.

money
“Money” by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
We will be secure in the knowledge that when folks need something done, all this trumpet-blowing and drum-banging is going to mean that they will inevitably think of US.

We’ll be “Top-Of-Mind.”

This is because we are in control of our own story and the image we’ve inserted in other people’s minds.

(Then, of course, we can don our super-hero gear and go get ‘er done.)

PB jammin’ takes time, we are told.  It takes hard work.  It can cost a bunch too.  After all, there’s a heck of a lot of competition out there and they’re all doing the very same thing we are.

The noise level keeps rising.

And all of those stories are clashing and crashing together.  ACK!

REALLY, YOU GUYS?

It really has to make you wonder, though.

When everybody’s talking and trying to make their message louder and stronger and more and it’s all predicated on self-promotion and outshining the other guy, doesn’t that mean that it gets really hard to hold a normal, one-on-one conversation?

And if everybody’s shouting at each other, what do any of us actually hear?

If everybody is trying to “stand out,” doesn’t that mean that we are all sort of blending in?

In the analog world, a crowd of folks, each one trying to be more different and more avant-garde than the other guys probably end up looking sort of like a cosplay convention or maybe a Mardi Gras parade.  Right?

injured-jack
“Injured Jack” by David Morgan via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
I mean, it’s fun and all, but what’s the point?

All those guys in the white lab coats tell us that each of us humans are pretty much made up of the same bundle of needs and wants, strengths and vulnerabilities, patches of assorted bits of sanity and neuroses, and ordinary as well as extraordinary bits as every other human.

They tell us that our individual differences and eccentricities are often less noticeable than our collective similarities.

A punk rocker who “stands out” in a crowd of polka fans would just be a regular sort of guy in a punk rock concert crowd.

Since business and everyday living runs more smoothly where there is a “meeting of the minds,” it is probably a good thing that we are a lot more alike than not.

Still and all, we are not clones of one another.  Even minor differences of mindsets can cause major misses when two minds are trying to intersect.

M…M…M…MAYBE IT’S SORT OF RIGHT

It is certainly true that showcasing the parts of ourselves that we are particularly proud of is more likely to attract the attention of folks who are looking for those very qualities we most want to continue to use and grow.

I’m not saying that the PB-jammin’ dudes are wrong.

I am saying, however, that it isn’t the packaging that brings joy and gladdens the hearts of the recipients of a gift.

It is not the packaging that delivers on the promises made when you ask for somebody’s trust.

The packaging means squat when you are in the middle of the muck trying to knock out a solution to a gnarly problem.

gift-wrapped
“Gift Wrapped” by Matthew Kenwrick via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
What your customer wants to know, really, are two things:

  • Can you do the work well?
  • Will it solve their problem so they can get on with doing their own work?

The shiny party paper and pretty bow are nice, but, so what?  How much of your time is it worth?

It seems to me that your time would probably be better spent making sure that you really are doing the work that your customers need done the way they need it done and that you are developing better and better skills at doing it.

HEADS-UP, CONTROL FREAKS

The one thing most guys who are into promoting personal branding sort of gloss over is another truism:  You cannot control any other person’s perceptions of you or your story.

How they put together what you say is not in your control.  Remember that ubiquitous disclaimer, “Individual results may vary.”

You can round up and herd other people’s perceptions.  You can influence them.  Maybe you can even drill an image into someone else’s head.  Whatever.

perceptions
“Points of Perception” by vannio via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Know, however, that if you fail at delivering on your promises, none of the packaging stuff is going to matter one whit to your customers.

You will hear about it, and so will anybody within the reach of that social media thing you’re trying to game.

THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS

There are important questions embedded in that Tom Peters’ article, which was meant to be a wake-up call for those of us playing among the ranks of the corporate minion-hordes to break free from the need to conform to and in our workplaces.

questions
“Questions” by elycefeliz via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Peters was giving us a heads-up about a basic truism, I think:  Conformity does not promote creativity.

He was trying to get us to understand that as contributors in the “new marketplace,” each of us is responsible for owning who we are on the deepest level.

He told us that we had to “cast aside all the usual descriptions that employees depend on to locate themselves in the company structure.”

Forget job title, he said.  Instead, ask yourself, ‘What do I do that adds remarkable, measurable, distinguished, distinctive value?”

Forget your job description, he said.  Ask yourself, “What do I do that I am most proud of?”

For me, at least, the personal branding advice Peters was presenting in that article more than a dozen years ago was less about you being noticed by other people and more about what you do, the meaning it has for you, and why it has value for other people.

He tells you to ask yourself “the same questions that brand managers at Nike, Coke, Pepsi or the Body shop ask themselves.”  Look at your product or service (and at your own self) and figure out what makes that product or service (or you) different from the run-of-the-mill in 15 words or less.

What specific features do the product or service (or you) have that benefits your customer better than anything else?

If your answer doesn’t “light up the eyes of a prospective client or command a vote of confidence from a satisfied past client, or – worst of all – if it doesn’t grab you,” Peters says, you have got a problem.

Basically, you don’t know why you’re doing what you do.

question-mark
“Question mark” by Kanser via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Applying the “feature-benefit model” to your own self, Peters suggests asking the following questions and he explains the benefits to the customers that arise from that feature:

  • Do you deliver your own work on time, every time? (Your internal or external customer gets dependable, reliable service that meets its strategic needs.)
  • Do you anticipate and solve problems before they become crises. (Your client saves money and headaches just by having you on the team.)
  • Do you always complete your projects within the allotted budget? (Cost overruns are not a help.)

Put together the answers to the feature-benefit model questions and the earlier ones about what you do that rings your own chimes.

Then, Peters says, ask yourself, “What do I want to be famous for?”

Doing all that helps you screw your head on right.  You will have figured out why your present and your prospective customers will probably like what you do.

You’re on your way to getting your story straight, which makes it a heck of a lot easier to live it.

There is a bunch of stuff in the article about how to call attention to your answers and conclusions once you’ve done the exercises.

Of course, there are.  The guy is a marketer-extraordinaire.

Maybe, though, that part is optional.

AN OLDER KIND OF PERSONAL BRANDING

Whenever I run across another of the “personal branding” motivational rants, I can hear my grandpa grunt, “Only wala’au (talk, talk, talk)…no CAN li’ dat.”

(Papa was a great believer in doing and solving problems.  Talking didn’t cut it for him when the results didn’t match the boasting.)

It was a reminder that wala’au is only air.

What counts, all the old guys said, are the results of the work of your hands and your mind.

these-hard-worked-hands
“These hard worked hands” by Carlos via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
It is an old-fashioned idea.  One that’s been around for a very long time.

Before there was a thing called “personal branding,” everybody worried and gnawed on the concept of “building a good reputation.”

Reputation is what people remember best about you, they said, and other people’s memories and the stories they tell about the way you walked along with them and others they know are what can make it a good one.

The thing that builds your reputation is the way you walk.

walk
“Walk” by Peter Blanchard via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

MEMORIES ARE LONG

Every once in a while, I am reminded of how long other people’s memories are.

The Light of My Life and I stopped into a private craft sale put together one Sunday morning by a group of local craftspeople in an outbuilding at the home of their friend and patron.  There were three painters, a journeyman photographer, a beginner jeweler, a masterly potter and a stone carver.

I knew the stone carver, Ho’aka, who used to hang around the booth at the hotel and festival craft shows that my late husband Fred (a self-taught, traditional Hawaiian stone-carver) and I used to set up to market Fred’s decidedly esoteric and traditional art form.

My part in all of that was to learn the stories of the ways the ancient ones worked with the stones and to explain how and why Fred tried to emulate their ways while he sat on a mat on the ground doing a stone-carving demonstration.

One of my best things was organizing little do-it-yourself stone polishing sessions where kids who visited our booth could take away a small, child hand-sized ‘ulumaika game stone that they had worked on themselves using one of the flat polishing stone boards I set up on mats around our space.

Another activity involved print-making by pressing acrylic paint-covered carved stones onto torn rectangles of crafts paper.

Guided by the pictures in the old books I’d found, Fred carved ancient-style petroglyphs onto those stones. The kids loved the results when they played with the stones.

rainbow-chief-petroglyph-stone
“Rainbow Chief” carved by Fred A. K. Kanoho

I made simple display boards, wrote up the mo’olelo (stories), and wowed the visitors to our booth with cultural tales during a time when the Hawaiian cultural renaissance was just starting to grow.

It was timely, and we sure had a lot of fun with it.

After Fred’s death, Ho’aka went on to find master traditional stone carvers in the islands, apprenticing himself to them.  He got good at working stones.

As the Light of My Life and I were leaving, Ho’aka gave me the highest compliments one local can give another.

He told me, “Netta, I want you to know.  We remember.  We remember how you told the stories.  We remember how you guys kept the stories alive.  We remember….”

Twenty years after that chapter in my life had ended, I was given this gift.

It made me cry…and the funny part was that what he said other people remembered was not what I thought I was doing.

Here’s a poem:


I’M FAMOUS

HEY!

Look-a-me!

I am FAMOUS!

EVERYBODY says so…

All the them that’s in the know.

(If YOU don’t know, then who are you?)

Me, I am famous!

 

HEH-HEH!

Look-a-me!

Watch me twist and twirl,

Gyrating in the swirl

Of Other People’s noticing,

Glowing in the spotlight

Incandescent like a mirror-ball.

I am famous!  Me!

 

HO-WOW!

Look-a-me!

Hey…look-a-me, look-a-me!

Hey, hey…why’d you stop?

Don’t you like me any more?

Gee…don’t you know?

I’m famous!

 

Ummm…where’d you go?

 

Awww….

They’re all gone.

There’s nobody looking.

Guess I’m done, my race all run,

Washed-up, a has-been…

Me…

The formerly famous.

created by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit: “Dying Fire” by Frank Crisanti via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0] 

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

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JOIN THE LONGEVITY REVOLUTION

JOIN THE LONGEVITY REVOLUTION

In America, dating since the original Social Security Act of 1935, retirement and making it intact to the “Golden Years,” (when you are supposedly free to stop working and “enjoy” lazing around in the little bit of life span you have left once you stop working) has been a gold-standard goal.

gold-watch
“Gold Watch” by Tim Ellis via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
The paradigm among the “human resource” contingent of the time, was that you’d be a tired, shopworn bit of humanity and could be sidelined like a piece of obsolete old equipment that was still in working order but kind of irrelevant.

It made a horrible sort of sense, that — especially after the rise of the Industrial Revolution when people were often seen as interchangeable parts in an ever-more-efficient system of production and productivity.

Young people were encouraged (and even brow-beaten) into going for and hanging on to “secure” and possibly meaningless-to-them jobs and to diligently squirrel away the nickels and pennies that were left over from paying for the lives they were living in order to build up a retirement fund for the winter of their life.

THE WHOPPING BIG ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

There is only one problem.

Since the retirement thing was first conceived in the early 1880’s by Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck of Germany – the first-of-its-kind social insurance program — all the smarty pants in labs and such have been pushing our physical envelopes.

We are now living longer and longer lives thanks to all of the advances in medicine and technology.  People are living decades after the official start of the “Golden Years.”

It has been one of the major societal goals of every culture, after all.  Who doesn’t want to live long and prosper?

god-of-longevity
“Shouxing – Chinese god of longevity” by Anne Petersen via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
When the then-new concept of “retirement” was first proposed, our human lifespans were not much more than three-score and ten.  It was expected that your body’s expiration date was about 70 or so years after you checked into this world.

Therefore, it was assumed that if you retired at 65 it was quite likely that you’d fall over dead very shortly thereafter.  The social program that helped you live your life as an old person was sustainable, it was thought.

It sort of worked for a while, but that’s no longer happening.

Now there’s a whole generation of older folks wondering whether whatever stack of money they’ve hoarded (if they ever got around to it during their “active” years) will last long enough and, for sure, the government subsidy thing keeps on shrinking as the cost of living heads on up.

The bills don’t stop during the “Golden Years.”  You still have to eat and you still need a roof over your head and your body…well, it’s been lived-in.

It breaks down.  Maintenance costs.

And, even more depressing, we’ve all figured out that people can really get bored spending twenty-some years slouching around doing nothing much.

Frankly, the so-called freedom of not-working sucks.

A new freedom is beginning to replace it as the Ultimate Goal:  the freedom to find and keep working at something that holds meaning for you.

ON TO ANOTHER PLAN

For the past twenty years and more author and social entrepreneur Marc Freedman has been working on fostering the idea of the “encore career,” a second vocation in the latter half of one’s life.

The idea dates from 1997 or 1998, when Freedman’s San Francisco-based nonprofit called Civic Ventures (since renamed Encore.org) introduced the notion.

Freedman’s non-profit developed into an innovation hub bent on “tapping the talent of people over 50+ as a force for good.”

By the time he gave the following talk at TEDxDrexelU in 2013, Freedman had co-founded “Experience Corps,” mobilizing thousands of Americans over 55 to improve the education of low-income elementary children.

He was spearheading the presentation of the Purpose Prize, an annual $100,000 award for social innovators in the second half of life.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) now runs both of these programs.

Freedman was also the author of four books about encore careers and the longevity revolution and a tireless proselytizer about the value of utilizing skills developed over a long career to help society.

In his talk, which was published in 2013 by TEDxTalks, Freedman pointed out that people are living longer and the old Golden Years plan is no longer working so well.

Since that talk, Encore.org has developed the Encore Fellowships program, a one-year fellowship helping individuals translate their midlife skills into “second acts” focused on social impact as well as the Encore Network, a coalition of leaders and organizations that help people turn those longer lives into an asset.

Freedman and his colleagues have written other books and continued to develop programs.

The concept has taken off.  Millions of older adults, aged 50 years and older, are working on delving into and developing a “second act” as the end of their primary careers draws closer.

A 2009 video published by Encore.org, “Timothy Will, 2009 Purpose Prize Winner” is a moving presentation by one of the winners of the organization’s Purpose Prize who leveraged his experience and skills into a way to help his Appalachian neighbors get back to the land.

The video was one of many.

The encore career has become a way to combine personal passion, social purpose and a paycheck, as Freedman is wont to say.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE RESOURCES GATHERED TOGETHER AND DEVELOPED BY ENCORE.ORG:

click-here

The upshot of all of this is that Freedman has been marvelously successful at instigating the Longevity Revolution.  Many others have taken up the banner as well.

Opting for an encore career has become a trend, even a movement.

Many baby-boomers and others who’ve reached (or are approaching) retirement age choose to do some other thing that fulfills their need to grow and to continue to engage with the world as well as to help pay the bills that just keep on coming.

A CONFESSION:  I GOT SIDE-TRACKED

Instead of getting more deeply into the nuts and bolts of this very interesting topic, I was side-tracked — sucked into a book written by master storyteller Jim May, TRAIL GUIDE FOR A CROOKED HEART:  Stories and Reflections for Life’s Journey.

This quintessentially human book is soul-satisfying, meandering through stories from May’s personal life (with lots of old wisdom-tales thrown in) that present us humans in all our glory and flat-footed stubborn.

More than anything else, it illuminates the value and the uplifting power of Story in our human journeys.

After working in construction, then becoming a teacher and a counselor, May gave in to his passion for telling a good story, following a family tradition that produced many a fine raconteur.

For more than 25 years, as a professional storyteller, May presented stories at story-telling festivals and events that drew tale-spinners from around the country together in the United States, Canada and Europe.

He’s appeared at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee four times and has participated in England’s oldest and most respected folk festivals at Towersey and Sidmouth.

One of his favorite things was appearing on the Studs Terkel radio show in Chicago.

In 2000 May was named by his peers to the Circle of Excellence, the highest of honors for the storytellers in the National Storytelling Network.  Before that, he won a Chicago Emmy for a WTTW-Channel 11 production of his original short story, “A Bell for Shorty.”

The man is good.

The following YouTube video, published by JustStoriesVideo in 2012, features Jim May remembering the day that Holocaust survivor and president of the Illinois Holocaust Memorial Foundation Lisa Derman died of a massive heart attack onstage at the Illinois Storytelling Festival while she was telling her story of survival.

It is a moving tribute as well as a testimonial for the power of Story.

ON-TRACK ONCE AGAIN (SORT OF)

It occurred to me after I had digested all of this, that May is also a fine example of a person who developed a personally satisfying encore career that worked well for him.

The thing he exemplifies is what happens when you look for (and find) another Why to live, and then do it well.

In the video honoring Lisa Derman, May mentions in passing his belief in the value of the wisdom of elders – wisdom that is part and parcel of the stories they tell.

Throughout history, in every culture, the stories the old people tell link the young ones to the procession of ancestors.  They present ages-old human dilemmas as well as solutions and guidelines about strategies and actions that have worked in the past.

an-elder-speaks
“An Elder Speaks (Whaea Kātarina Daniels, Te Ū Hui-ā-motu),” by New Zealand Tertiary Education Union via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
These wisdom stories can be an enormous help to someone who is looking for clarity or a new direction.

One of the chapters in May’s book starts with a quote from James Hillman in his book, THE FORCE OF CHARACTER: And the Lasting Life, a stunning reflection about life’s second half:

“The final years have a very important purpose:  The fulfillment and confirmation of one’s character.  When we open our imaginations of the idea of the ancestor, aging can free us from convention and transform us into a force of nature, releasing our deepest beliefs for the benefit of society.”

That chapter in May’s book is titled, “Signal Trees.”  In it he tells stories about the mentors and elders that he is grateful to for their stories, their wisdom and their support.

THE THING ABOUT SIGNAL TREES

Signal trees are said to be a Native American way of shaping tree saplings to mark significant locations.

According to the lore surrounding the signal trees, they are a part of a navigational system through the forests and waterways of northeastern and southeastern tribes throughout North America.

The manipulated trees, we are told, mark sacred gathering places, trails that were important, a fresh water source off a main route, indications of deposits of flint, copper, lead and other minerals important for medicinal and ceremonial purposes as well as portage points and linkages to other major trails

The three-tonged bur oak tree in the header picture is considered to be an Indian Signal Tree.  It’s even labeled by a bronze plaque, even though there is still some mystery surrounding its purpose.

The button below takes you to a Summit Metro Parks article that explains more about the tree and about signal trees in general.

click-here

As May points out in his book, if you’ve lived your life well, age gives you gifts – patience, tolerance, resilience, a long-term perspective, varied life-experiences and well-developed skills — that are worth sharing with those who come after you.

And that is the point of this new Longevity Revolution:  You, too, can become a signal tree.

An encore career has been described as “a new chapter of work,” something you move on into after you have spent many years at one kind of work, often quite successfully.

The encore career can be a deepening and broadening of the career you’ve already built, using the stockpile of skills you’ve mastered and the lessons your experiences have taught you that will allow you to reach a different level in your field as a self-employed freelancer and entrepreneur, a consultant, a coach, or a mentor.

It might be about you finally starting out doing your own passion your own way and finding ways and opportunities to keep on playing in this new field that enriches your life and fills it with meaning.

An encore career could be a position as a volunteer supporting some solution to the social ills around us or toward fostering some good thing you want to see grow.

It can also be a way to stay active and to feel useful.

And, of course, an encore career very often is a way to help fund your “Golden Years.”

For whatever reason, the encore career has become a significant and growing economic trend and movement that the baby-boomers are spearheading these days, it seems.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The following YouTube video, “Encore Careers:  From Social Trend to Social Movement,” was published in 2012 by NextAgenda as a promotional piece.

What’s even more interesting is the more recent development featured in this next video, “Encore Careers: How to Find Your Perfect Job At Any Age,” published by The List Show TV in 2018.  It features Jared Cotter of The List, the national Emmy award-winning show that looks at pop culture and currently trending ideas.

The Longevity Revolution continues to grow and spread.  It’s even crossed generational lines.

Here’s a poem I made honoring a friend who wandered through a series of foster homes in her youth.  She made her baby dreams come real and her life is now one of great joy for her and for the ones she embraces.


ORPHAN CHILD

Orphan child stands apart,

Always the stranger,

Unfettered, untied.

The wanderer has

No place to lay her weary head,

No place that enfolds her, no warm, no light.

No one tucks her away from the cold, the dark.

 

She tells herself she’ll make her own place,

A place where all the dispossessed,

The abandoned ones,

Can come and find

Someone who sees them as they are,

Someone who is not afraid to hold them in the dark,

Someone who loves them even though they are not like

All the other ones – the orderly ones who march

All in a line, step by step,

Trying really hard to all be the same.

 

In her place, there will be no fear

Of hard eyes and cold mouths,

Tearing your heart to bits,

Unerringly finding the sore places

With tongues of ice and fire.

All of those demons will be exorcised away.

She’ll send them to some other place

Where they can play their games

With others of their own kind.

(She won’t leave them to wander

Like refugees in the night.)

 

Cruelty will be banished

In the laughter and the joy

Of seeing ones who reach out

To hold you warm and safe.

That’s what she says, anyway.

And we will play, she says,

Oh, how we will play:

Games of beauty, games of grace,

Gales of laughter and soft, loving tears

From hearts that overflow.

 

It could happen. 

Yes, it could.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Akron Signal Tree” by Greg Habermann via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

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GET TO CLARITY

GET TO CLARITY

“Maintaining clarity of vision is an essential difference between those who conceive and realize great ideas and those who simply conceive great ideas,” it says here.

That quote is from Carol Lloyd, author of CREATING A LIFE WORTH LIVING:  A Practical Course in Career Design for Artists, Innovators and Others Aspiring to a Creative Life, a book that first came out in 1997.

The book’s been through four editions since then.

I’m re-reading my dog-eared, marked-up, well-worn copy of it again. It’s like visiting an old friend.

In the book, Lloyd does an in-depth interview with Loretta Staples.  At the time, Staples was an established software designer and visual communications expert focused on designing graphical user interfaces and helping to develop prototypes for emerging technologies.

Besides her work with Apple computer, she had her own San Francisco-based design consultancy, U dot I.  She was also working with Scient Corp., one of the top eBusiness strategy consultant firms of the time that got whacked down by the hammer of the implosion of the dotcom bubble a few years down the road.

click-here

(Click the button to access a Fast Company article by Keith H. Hammonds about the company and the times.  It was published in 2000 and is an insightful read.)

Since then, Staples has gone on to build a second and then a third career as an artist and educator, and then as a therapist at Rushford, an agency providing addiction and mental health services, and in private practice in New Haven.

A fascinating woman.  The course of her life lends gravitas to the quote from her that Lloyd shares: “If you are clear about what you want the world responds with clarity.

THE TROUBLE WITH “POTENTIAL” AND HOW TO GET PAST IT

All of this got me to thinking about another quote. This one’s from the late George Leonard, once called “the third founder” of the Esalen and one of the giants of the Human Potential Movement.

Leonard said, “Whatever your age, your upbringing, or your education, what you are made of is mostly potential.”

The trouble with “potential” is that if you are only Potential and you don’t do anything with any of it, then you are sort of nebulous.  People don’t know how to connect with you.

After all, nobody can hold hands with a galaxy.  You do have to bring it down to human.

galaxy
“Galaxy” by Bryce Bradford via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The way you do that is by choosing – by making decisions.  You have to create the self you want to be.

This is never easy. In fact, it can get downright painful.

Decisions mean cutting off some of your possibilities so that you can be in the world with people you like.

What you keep is what makes you become a person other people can relate to as well as a person they can help.

In this “víderacy:  spark your interest” YouTube video, published in 2015, author Todd Henry tells the story of how musician Amos Heller’s key career decision that led him to being Taylor Swift’s bass player.

 

Henry wrote the book LOUDER THAN WORDS: Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice.  (That one’s another keeper, by the way.)

CHANGE HAPPENS ONE CHOICE AT A TIME, BUT….

Christine DeLorey, a masterful numerologist and philosopher whose signature book, LIFE CYCLES: Your Emotional Journey to Freedom and Happiness, is another of my favorites.

It’s one of those reference books that you can use over time to help you think on and integrate your own life into a semblance of sense.

DeLorey uses the ancient system of numerology to think on the big life-questions and uses the answers she has discovered to help you build what she calls “your framework of potential” so you can create the life you want to live.

What she did was explain the numerological meanings of the numbers from one to nine and explained what they mean to you and your life.

She tied these numbers to the calendar, categorizing dates by adding together all the numbers in a date to find its numerological number.

To use the book, you figure out your personal “destiny” number using the numbers of the day you were born and then you figure out what the number is for the year and then for the month you are currently experiencing.

Basically, DeLorey devised an oracle (and a framework) that guides you in looking at life and what is happening to you at any given time.

I have used it as a catalyst that guides my questions about myself, my life and the world.

On last day of every month I dip into the book and read about the section for the next month.

DeLorey’s thoughts for that month becomes the theme for the month I am living.  I look at my life and see whether what she says could be happening (numerologically) really does happen in real life.

The way the book is set up, this way of playing takes nine years to complete.

In its way, it is a course and a curriculum.

throwing-shapes
“Throwing Shapes” by Brendan Adkins via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Yeah, yeah…it sounds really woo-woo, but, I have to tell you, the thing works well as a structured way for working on exchanging unproductive mindsets for ones that help you walk more effectively in the world.

In one of her riffs about making choices and decisions, she talks about the times when you wiffle-waffle back and forth as you consider whether a particular change of course is what you want or not.

Says DeLorey, “The choices you make should be based on your feelings about the situation along with a conscious understanding of the probable outcome of your choices.”

I say that when you’ve jumped all-unknowingly on a fast-moving, twisty horse and find yourself heading off in all directions at once, you know a decision MUST be made.

You probably also get the gut-wrenching feeling that any decision you make is going to take courage.

That’s because it’s right about then that the fear-engine in your gut starts revving up, and maybe you start thinking that you should just jump off the bucking horse and sit there in the dust….again.

This happens, most smarty-pants and wise-guys say, because you are very much aware of how one change can create a chain reaction of many changes.

One of the coolest examples of chain reactions is this YouTube video published by Hevesh 5 in 2017, “250,000 Dominoes – The Incredible Science Machine:  GAME ON!”

It features the climax of a live domino project sponsored by Zeal Credit Union and organized by professional domino/chain reaction artists Steve Price and Lily Hevish.  Nineteen builders from five countries spent seven days and over 1,200 combined hours to build the thing.

The event achieved three new US domino records at the time:  largest domino field, largest domino structure and largest overall domino project in America.

And that’s the deal, isn’t it?

Choices have consequences.  Choices can topple empires.

But, the takeaway lesson of this and other domino-building efforts is this: Humans can influence and turn all that toppling into meaningful works of art and maybe into meaningful lives as well, one little bit at a time.

Sometimes they can even have a grand bit of fun with it.

It all comes down to being clear, all the way down to your toes, about what you are trying to achieve and what results you want to see happen.

CLARITY = FOCUS

This YouTube Video, “How Clarity of Purpose Focuses Decision-Making” was published in 2017 by Storyforge, an organization that helps “founder-led businesses forge their meaningful story.”

The organization was co-founded by Haley Boehning and Barry Chandler.  They work on helping other people build purpose-driven businesses.

In the video, Chandler talks about putting a “stake in the ground” and how knowing what you stand for and where you are going helps to make coming to a decision much, much easier.

CLARITY AS FILTER

One of my favorite visionaries and deep thinkers is Simon Sinek who is probably best known for popularizing the concept of starting with WHY.  His first TED talk in 2009 became the third most-watched talk of all time, it says here.

In this 2012 YouTube video, “How do I use the Why as a decision filter?,” Sinek considers how you can use your own “why” to help you make decisions that align with your values.

FINAL THOUGHTS

When I am trying too hard to come to some sort of decision or other and I’m wandering around in a fog of angst, feeling confused and suffering over my own suffering, I tend to jump back on my Ho’o-Cycle and take this test:

HO’O-CYCLE TEST FOR LIFE-DECISIONS

Ho’opuleo’o:  Does this action I am considering support the values and vision I have developed?

Ho’opaepae:  Is this action the most graceful/effective/skillful way I can walk now?

Ho’omanawanui:

  1. Does this action give me the freedom/time/space I need to play my way?
  2. Is this the proper time to take this action?  If so, why?  If not, why not?

Ho’oholomana’o:

  1. Does this action help me walk without stumbling?
  2. Can I move freely and well if I take this action now?

The reason I do this is because I made up the test my own self after years of suffering from the 2x4s swung by Life-Its-Own-Self bonking me on the head.  I’m all kinds of proud of the thing and, f’r real, answering the Ho’o-Cycle questions when I’ve got a tough decision to make does help me get to my own sort of clarity.

(If you click on “Ho’o-Cycle” and on the funny-looking Hawaiian-name lead-ins for each set of questions, you can learn more about them and about my Ho’o-Cycle.)

Here’s a poem:


STILL SHAKIN’, WALKIN’ BOSS….

Here I go…

Doing yet another kata

In the middle of

Yet another earthquake.

 

Here’s me…

Trying to find my stance again

As the ground on which I stand

Gets cut away…again.

 

And here’s a familiar thought:

Maybe all of this

Posturing and posing is

Just another exercise in futility.

 

So…

What do you do

When you find out

Your world is

Just an airball?

 

Think balloons, I suppose.

 

by Netta Kanoho

Header Picture credit:. “The Skip (as in “It’s a hop, a skip, and a jump”) by Alan English CPA via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

Thanks for your visit. I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

 

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ROCK THE BOX

ROCK THE BOX

They told us wrong, you know.

All those guys who kept exhorting us (for decades now) to “think outside the box,” urging us to forget about our limitations and be “free-free-free” didn’t give us the real story when they touted that ‘Unbound” mindset as the panacea for all of our gnarly problems.

In fact, I think they were blowing sunshine up the nether parts of our anatomy (with the best of intentions, of course).

I suspect they don’t even know what that “box” they keep talking about really is.

You can tell that they’re playing their air-guitars because they all seem to be enamored of that silly nine-dot puzzle where you’re supposed to join all of the dots that are arranged in a square with four straight lines.

Every one of those guys present the very same solution….as if it’s the only solution there is.

Really?

Do it their way and you get a gold star, I guess.  Whoo-hoo!

thanks-for-the-gold-stars
“Thanks for the gold stars” by Jeffrey Zeldman via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
What does all that tell you?

Mostly it tells me that Da Guys have taken what some acknowledged expert has said and they’re passing it on to me without really thinking on it.

The best riff I’ve ever seen on coming up with solutions to that classic nine-dot puzzle is this YouTube video, “Thinking Inside the Box.” It’s a short thing published by TEDxTalks in 2012 and features designer and marketing strategist Magnus Berglund at TEDxGöteberg.

See what I mean?

This guy plays inside the box.  In fact, he makes it rock!

ANATOMY OF “THE BOX”

So, what IS this “Box” thing?

Every one of Da Guys will tell you it’s all those nasty, hard-rub limitations and constraints that handcuff you and bring you down and hold you back from realizing your True Potential.

Without all those stupid restrictions, prohibitions, obstacles, obstructions, and impediments to progress, you could soar, you know.

The thing is, they are right.  We could all fly if there was no gravity holding us down.

flight
“Flight” by Allegory Malaprop via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Hey…us humans, we’ve got super-powers:  Imagination, Ingenuity, Innovation, Inventiveness.  All those good “I” words.

The problem is, we’ve also got a brain that’s set up to “fix” stuff.  We are all hard-wired to be alert for ways to mitigate the irritation factor of the things in the world that make us uncomfortable or rub us the wrong way.

However, if there is absolutely nothing wrong with anything in our lives and if everything is all hunky-dory, then we just sit there.

Why not?

Everything is FINE.

the-world-of-my-wild-river
“The World of My Wild River…!!!” by Denis Collette via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
When our world is beauteous and beyond lovely, when it’s all going our way and there’s a cherry pie in the oven with our name on it, there really is no need for us to gear up, grab our trusty sword, gather our True Companions, and set off out of Hobbit-land on some weird-ass quest.

There has got to be some REASON for us to move our booties.

The End of The-World-As-We-Know-It is a Reason.

So is an irritating hang-nail.

So is some dumb tool that doesn’t work right or a rule or customary practice or system that makes no sense and is ultimately counter-productive.

These are the kinds of things that lure us into action.

And taking action automatically turns our lives into a movie or, if you want to be low-tech about it, the actions we take become the start of another story, song, or poem.

So, really, that “Box” all our wanna-be advisors keep urging us to “transcend” is actually The-World-As-We-Know-It (also known as TWAWKI).

Maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe not.

Only you can decide.

REDEFINING THE BOX AND HOW WE CAN USE IT

My own theory is that TWAWKI is actually like the big old refrigerator box my cousins and I got to play with one summer.  That box was cool.

Before it fell apart, we built awesome worlds with it and got to go on a lot of adventures prominently featuring bad-ass truckers, pirates and one stuffed parrot, paladins and gunslingers, knights and dragons, really cool and crafty American Indian dudes and dudettes, super-heroes and other-worldly alien spiders, and things like that.

(We sat on the one cousin who just wanted to play “house” or “store” or “tea party.”  He really was no fun.)

This 2015 video, “World’s Biggest Box Fort” by Family Fun Pack sure does bring back some sweet memories….

The thing we have to remember is that TWAWKI is what it is.  We can do things with it, but first we have to make sure we are seeing it right:

The Box is the Box is the Box…but what ELSE could it be?

Not having the right tools or the proper materials for some project and faced with inadequate funding plus a fast- approaching deadline breathing down your neck as well as a clueless colleague or two and an assortment of dorkheads who are sabotaging your efforts from on high are all examples of the kinds of limitations, obstructions and constraints that define the parameters of TWAWKI.

They define the parameters of our Box.

These sorts of conditions help us see where we are standing.

If we look around within this space, we can begin to make an inventory of the resources that are available to us that we can use to resolve our problem.

bay-of-saronikos
“Illuminated Manuscript of The Bay of Saronikos…” by Piri Reis, posted by Walters Art Museum, Baltimore via Flickr [Public Domain]
With a map of the territory that has notations about the various obstacles and dangers marked on it and a list of available resources in hand, plus some sort of time-frame to work in, we can begin.

And, if we do it right, because of our inherent super I-powers, we humans can, indeed, change TWAWKI.

Maybe the changes we make will mitigate the problem.  Maybe not.  But, it’s possible that the action we take or the thing we make will be at least one step in the right direction.

If our solution sort of works, we’ll have a new starting place from where we can keep working on the problem until it is gone.  (Then we can go find some other problem.)

If our solution falters or fails, we’ll know for sure that what we tried does not work and we can figure out why.  Then we can go explore in some other direction.

In either case, we can go on.

Boxing ourselves in and defining the boundaries of that box are the first steps to breaking out and making breakthroughs, it seems.

(We already know that just sitting there in the middle of the road really does not work.)

Technology blogger and startups analyst Thomas Oopong, the founding editor of Alltopstartups, a resource for news about top internet startups and technological companies, wrote a cogent article for Inc. magazine in 2017, “For a More Creative Brain, Embrace Constraints”.

In it he delineates the whys and hows for using constraints and limitations to change TWAWKI.  You can access it by clicking the button below.

click-here

ONE MORE TAKE

Innovation and leadership advisor Navi Radjou is a great believer in what he calls “frugal innovation.”

In this short YouTube video, “Big Questions, Big Ideas:  Frugal Innovation with Navi Radju,” he gives a small glimpse at how working with limitations and constraints can lead to very real innovations that solve everyday problems for people who are not living in abundance.

The video was posted by Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in 2018.

The highlight of this video is a refrigerator developed by a potter Mansukh Prajapati.  It is entirely made of clay and needs no electricity.

Radjou, expounding more on his ideas in a post on the ideas.ted.com site, quips,

“If an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty, then the developing world must be filled with optimists. There, people have learned to get more value from limited resources and find creative ways to reuse what they already have.”

Besides Prajapati’s refrigerator, Radjou points to the resourceful entrepreneurs in Africa who recharge cell phone batteries with their bicycles.

Another successful project was a giant advertising billboard designed by students of the engineering and technology college, UTEC, in the city of Lima Peru, a city that is extremely humid but also very dry.  (It receives only one inch of rainfall a year.)

The billboard the college designed absorbs the humid air and converts it into purified water.  It generates more than 90 liters every day.

Radjou says, “In India, we call these kinds of solutions Jugaad, a Hindi word that means an improvised fix, a clever solution born in adversity.”

When basic resources are scarce and living is hard, there will be people who fall back on their own ingenuity and use it to solve their everyday life problems which can be truly fearsome.

Whatever else may be missing, human ingenuity is boundless.

And that is a very good thing.

Here’s a poem:


GONNA BE IN THE MOVIES

I just saw one more comic-book movie

Where the apocalypse comes

Riding in on mighty metal steeds.

Buildings blow up spectacularly.

People get squished like bugs.

Everything’s knocked flat.

The super hero wins.

The villain loses.

The world is safe for Humankind.

Again.

 

But, then,

In the fare-thee-well,

Next-to-the-last scene,

There’s the super-hero (in disguise)

Walking through a bright and

Shiny, spanking-new building,

Full of bright and shiny people

With no flies on ’em.

Just another day in a workaday world.

 

The rubber band stretched…

And snapped right back into place.

 

Okay,

I know, I KNOW…

It’s a dumb movie.

 

But, I have to wonder:

How’d those guys get things rebuilt so fast?

We are talking BIG buildings here,

Streets of them,

All busted up and shredded.

I mean, where’d they get the funding?

 

And I have to wonder:

Where’d they put all the dead people

That had to be lying around

All over the landscape.

Did the street pizza evaporate?

Did anybody cry?

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah….

It’s just a movie.

The good guys won.

The bad guys didn’t.

And it all just goes away…

Like mist when the sun comes out.

 

Right.

 

So…

I got to thinking

How the whole thing ’bout “forgive” and “let go”

Has gotten tangled up with

“Nah-nah-nah,”

“Ne’ min'” and

“Fuggetaboudit.”

 

Yeah?

Lemme run this one out.

(My warped brain just won’t wrap itself around this.)

 

Okay,

Here’s the deal:

You can stomp around

Doing scorched-earth moves,

Littering the landscape

With toppled, twisted dreams

And ooka-pile-plenty street pizza

As long as you can

Strike noble poses in the sun,

‘Cause, hey, you did what you had to do.

The rest is…well…”collateral damage.”

 

Yup!

It’s your nature.

You can’t help it.

That’s how you are.

Your back was pushed against the wall,

So you blew up the world around you.

 

Ummmm.

Okay.

Right!

 

So then there’s the second half of this screwy equation:

All the REST of the people in the world,

They are NOT super-heroes.

They are helpless, civilized ninnies

Whose destiny, apparently,

Is to be street-pizza and cannon fodder

When the good guys and the bad guys have their tiffs.

And when it’s all done,

When all the dust settles,

Then everything just…kinda…goes back to regular.

 

HUH?

HOW?

WHY?

 

‘Cause the fodder-guys,

They’re civilized.

They are chock-a-block full of

Mommy-understanding, of empathy and sympathy.

They are the embodiments of loving-kindness,

Of unconditional love

Or at least they’re supposed to be….

(Or maybe they’re brain-damaged and concussed….

No short-term memory.)

 

Hey,

They’ll forgive ya ’cause they understand:

It’s your Nature.

So, they’ll all forget about it,

They’ll just pull together

And get this place back in shape

So all the good guys and all the bad guys

Can blow it up again.

 

Hmmm….

I don’t know, guys.

Don’t make a lick of sense to me.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…

I know…only a movie….

 

So, tell me then…

How come our real-life leaders

Act like they are super heroes

Engaged in a battle against the wicked forces of evil-most-vile?

Does that mean WE are the cannon-fodder?

Are WE the evaporating street pizza?

And now I’m wondering

Just HOW are we supposed to rebuild our world

Once the dust settles?

How are we supposed to forgive, to forget?

 

Hmmm….

Sure doesn’t look good to me….

By Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Boxes” by oatsy40 via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
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MAKE THE ORDINARY SACRED

MAKE THE ORDINARY SACRED

I am reading a book by a man I admire greatly, Edward Espe Brown.  He was the first head cook at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center back in the 1960’s and later founded Greens Restaurant in San Francisco.

His earliest book, THE TASSAJARA BREAD BOOK is a classic.

More than one dear friend remembers their well-thumbed, flour-coated and oil-stained go-to copy of the book and the loveliness that flowed from their hands and the kitchens of their youth.

Brown’s latest work, NO RECIPE:  Cooking as Spiritual Practice, is a distillation of the wisdom he has gained after more than 50 years of feeding many people, of running large kitchens, and of following the path of Zen Buddhism as a monk, as a teacher, and as a philosopher.

I devoured it in one big gulp and am re-reading it slowly and picking out the best parts to savor.  It will undoubtedly have a place on my bookshelf for a long time…just so I can dip into it again.

The following YouTube video, “Awaken In the Sacred Space” was published in 2018 by the publisher Sounds True just after the book came out.

Try look!  You might like it!

YOU START WITH YOURSELF

Brown’s root teacher was Shunryu Suzuki Rōshi who was the Sōtō Zen monk and teacher who helped popularize Zen Buddhism in the United States and who founded the first Buddhist monastery outside Asia.

One of my favorite Suzuki Rōshi videos is this one “Sandokai – Sound and Noise,” posted by semillas de bambu in 2007.  It gives you a glimpse of the man and the way he talked and how he thought.

In a 2013 interview for a blog post put up by the San Francisco Zen Center, Brown pointed out, “I still appreciate Suzuki Rōshi saying, ‘When you are you, Zen is Zen.’ He didn’t say when you get to be Zen enough, then you’ll have really gotten somewhere. So much of Suzuki Rōshi’s way was to find out what’s appropriate for the occasion and what works for people.”

It is that practicality – connecting the sacred to the ordinary and grounding it there — that shines throughout Brown’s book.  It takes your head and your heart away into a peaceful place.

brussel-sprouts-before-roasting
“Brussel sprouts before roasting” by John Sullivan [CC BY-SA 2.0]

MUSINGS ON MAKING THE ORDINARY SACRED

As I was thinking on what to share with you in this post and shuffling through notes and jottings and other stuff, I rediscovered an old bit of writing from when I was focusing on developing a “manifesto” – promises to myself of how I wanted to proceed with my life.

more-abundance
“More Abundance” by Netta Kanoho via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
I thought I’d share this thing with you.  Maybe you’ll find something useful in it.  (I know I still have a grand time playing with it.)


One of the choices I delineated for myself was this one: I make and maintain room in my life to make the ordinary sacred.

In order to do this, I figured that I had to do the following:

  • I give myself time to play.

Without the time to play, it all sort of mooshes into “gotta, gotta, gotta,” and it starts feeling like one giant treadmill.   Somehow, I can’t feature hamsters being real into “sacred.”

  • I help make the structure of my life a better vehicle for enhancing Creativity.

When I have spaces built in where I can play with making a Little Something out of the Big Nothing, then I start feeling like I can stop to appreciate all the wonder there really is in the world.

Everything’s a little more sparkly, a little more special, because it’s not just ME doing Little Somethings, it’s EVERYBODY doing Little Somethings.

This is a great space to be in when you’re trying to make it all sacred.

  • I ask the hard questions and I develop rituals that remind me what is Real.

Hard questions are like, “What am I doing be-bopping along here on this road to death?”  and “How am I making my space sparkly?” and “Why do I care whether so-and-so is a dorkhead?” and “What can I let go of now?” and “What do I want to keep now?” and so on and so forth.

Making rituals include things like lighting a bit of incense before I work on reconciling my checkbook so that I remember that I am working with the abundance in the universe that is flowing through my life.

It includes cleaning up the stack of the day’s dishes before going to bed so I wake up without leftover messes in my face.

It includes doing my ch’i kung routine every morning so that I feel the energy that’s out there flowing all around, just waiting for me to join in the dance.

It includes moving stuff around and checking out how the feng shui moves helped (or not) as I go through my day.

It includes writing quick notes to heart-people just because it feels good to have them in my life.

  • I make room in my life to focus on Creativity.

I always seem to get caught up in doing, doing, doing.  It is a cool thing to be able to stop and step back from it all and see where it is going.

If I can do that, it seems, that there’s automatically more space to do something that is heartful.

It also helps when I can step back and look at what I am doing and see where I can do it in a way that fosters more creativity.

I want open-ended avenues, not cul-de-sacs, I think.

I want mountain passes rather than ruts and grooves.

I want bridges rather than dead ends.

Working on it.

  • I develop creative projects and products that help other people open their hearts and play.

Part of that process is stopping every so often to see whether what I am doing is still useful or if I need to be doing some other thing.

  • I develop skill and facility in using story, symbolism and metaphor that feed and enhance my communication skills.

There is so much power in the Word, but there is also power in the non-verbal.  I am working on that one a lot right now and seeing where that takes me.


Looking at the thing now, I can see it was still a lot of half-baked ideas.

I also see that through the years since I first wrote this thing, I’ve continued working on and developing these mind-constructs.  It’s turned out okay as I keep on working them through and I’ve been mostly pleased with the results.

The whole of this, I think, is the notion that the Creative IS what is sacred in the ordinary.

Being able to slap together a sandwich or a salad depends on having the space for the fixings and for making what you want to make.  That’s honoring and making room for the Creative.

Being able to dance to your heartsong means you’ve got to have the space to turn around and move your bootie.

And, it seems to me, the only way to get to the Creative is by embracing your own self and how you feel about the way the world is working as well as what you do to recognize and honor the Creative and the sacred in the ordinary.

The best part is this: I’ve found that the more I pursue finding the Creative and the sacred in the ordinary the more my life feels like a wondrous thing.

 Here’s a poem….


SEEKERS

Seekers seek:

It’s what they do….

Looking for what is over there or over there…

just anywhere but Here…

searching for what was then or what will later be,

but never, ever, what is Now.

 

Only one problem –

take it as you choose….

Seekers are always in their Here,

they are always in their Now,

and that eclipses all the rest, ya know,

reveals the fool’s gold of their wanderlust lives and

sets them off…on the road again.

 

I daresay that’s why

Seekers track down some long-lost riddle

or pursue a thing that runs on ahead,

giggling, as it wisps off away into the Unknown –

tantalizingly close…then gone.

 

And, I guess, that’s why

Seekers beat the bushes,

chasing down some truth or other,

leaving no stone unturned,

rooting around in all that detritus and mud,

ferreting out byways and bypasses,

checking out trails and paths,

tracking down yet another cliché

that turns to dross in the sun of their eyes.

 

I suppose that’s why

Seekers quest,

seeking high, looking low,

investigating – delve and dig –

teasing forth yet another wisdom,

finding one more sacred talisman,

throwing out their old dragnets,

pulling them back in,

and then they stand around watching as

their catch (glittery and gleaming when freshly caught)

dries out and morphs into everyday, ordinary pebbles…

over and over again.

 

They say they’re looking for happy, the Seekers,

They say they want to find the Real, the True,

But, it’s a funny thing:

It seems you can only find the Real in your Here

and your Now contains the only True,

and you only get to Happy (or a reasonable facsimile)

when you notice that.

 

I suspect that if your heart is busy yearning

for far-away and some other when —

baubles and bits like a cave full of a dragon’s stash

or the resting-place of a once-and-future king,

like the ancient conundrums of a long-gone people

or the someday-visions of some mystic’s dream —

then, maybe you just cannot see your way to the Here,

maybe you cannot catch the scent of the Now,

and so you’re doomed to keep on looking,

condemned to search, to quest.

 

One day you are old.

The will-o-wisps no longer tantalize and tempt you

and the long road fades off away in the distance

as you sit there in your clown suit watching the sun set,

inventorying your memories, one by one.

And maybe ’cause you’re sitting there all quiet

Your here-and-now comes and sits by you,

Snuggling up against you,

and maybe that’s when Happy has a chance to find you,

and Real and True stop by to have a chat.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:. “Prehistoric Rock Engraving” by Merryjack via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Thanks for your visit. I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

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PLAY WITH THE ADJACENT POSSIBLE

PLAY WITH THE ADJACENT POSSIBLE

I’ve been noticing that much of the advice being bandied about by the guys trying to help us ordinary folks improve our dud-ly selves is to reach for innovation, to grab onto the Creativity Rocket and hang on for the sure-to-be-exciting but sometimes silly (and possibly dangerous) ride.

For example, vlogger John Spencer published this YouTube video in 2016 that tells us, “We Need a Bigger Definition of Creativity.”

Everyone who studies on these things will tell you that the world-in-all-its-glory is capable of extraordinary change.

Us humans, as the pushiest parts of this world and the ones most likely to move things around and tinker and build and re-purpose stuff, are all nascent agents of change, they tell us.

And they are right.

BUT, ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO BE A CHANGE-AGENT?

There’s just one problem with all that:  Change-agents are very often disruptive sorts.

They don’t mean to be.  They’re just exploring their own fascinations and pursuing their own obsessions.

However, they do tend to confuse and upset and irritate people who are just going along and getting by.  They rock the boats of the ones who are liking the way the world is already set up just the way it is.

Change-agents can be especially unpopular with people whose power is based on the world being how it is.

Change-agents are likely to be the guys who get ridiculed and vilified and stomped down by their peers and the others around them.

If their ideas are particularly change-making, change-agents are the ones who end up getting denounced from assorted pulpits and beat up by fearful mobs of folks or burned at the stake by the ones who don’t like the possibilities to which the new ideas point.

This may make you uneasy.

fear-of-the-dark
“Fear of the Dark” by stuart anthony via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
It is also why people who are inclined to be innovative are admonished that they do need to learn how to connect better with the people around them.

This helps them find other people for whom the fascination of where the next new idea will take them is exciting.

Being a change-agent is lot more fun when you hang out with others who are also looking to change the world…or who are at least willing to change their mind.

WHEN AN IDEA IS “AHEAD OF ITS TIME”

Ideas and ways of walking and doing things that are very much more “advanced” or just very different than what has gone before are likely to meet resistance of every kind.

Infant ideas that are “ahead of their time” often get killed off before they can turn into anything tangible.

Either the necessary supporting technology is not yet part of the agreed-upon consensus-world that the change-agents share with the other people around them or else the prevailing, existing mindsets just can’t take in (much less digest) these new baby ideas and squishes them flat.

When these very good change-inducing ideas get re-discovered by innovative sorts living in friendlier times, the things take off running, dragging the whole reluctant, resistant world along.

This happens in science and technology; in art, music, literature, theater, fashion, design, and the rest of the creative milieu; in the business and working world; and in the lifestyles of people who work on transforming themselves into something other than what they used to be.

The whole point of knowing this is that you can aim yourself at looking for the “ideas whose time is now, ideas that excite many other people in the world.

Perhaps one of those ideas will take you to the new places that will ring the world’s chimes.

so-it-begins
“So it begins” by Phototropy via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

THE ADJACENT POSSIBLE

In 2002, physician and theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman (a free-thinker who has a tendency to confuse the heck out of a lot of his more mundane colleagues) figured out and developed a mind-map of the way real change works in the natural world.

Kauffman’s work was so esoteric and bound up in the evolutionary changes that occur in his unique mash-up, interdisciplinary world of biology, physics and astronomy that it had to be explained to us ordinary folks by science writer Steven Johnson in his 2010 book, WHERE GOOD IDEAS COME FROM:  The Natural History of Innovation.

As Johnson explains, Kauffman discovered a theory that he called the “Adjacent Possible.”

Basically, what the thing says is that at any given moment the world is capable of extraordinary change, but only CERTAIN changes can actually happen.

What determines which changes CAN happen is the fact that other, supporting changes to a particular situation have already happened.

And then, if new changes happen because of the work the change-agent puts into making his or her new idea tangible and if others continue iterating and developing the idea, then other “adjacent possible” changes become available and so on.

“The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore these boundaries.  Each new combination ushers new combinations into the adjacent possible,” says Johnson.

Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open.

You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room you have not visited yet.  These four rooms contain what Kauffman calls “the adjacent possible.”

room-with-doors-2
“Room with Doors (2060-2)” by Brent Eckly [CC BY 2.0]
Okay.

So you open one of those four magic doors.

You stroll (or possibly sneak) into the new room that appears when you open that door and you notice that in that room there are three or more other new doors you can open.

room-with-doors
“Room with Doors (IMG_8881)” by David Bramhall [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Repeat the process and you come to another room with more doors.

exploration-2
“Exploration” by Flavio Spugna [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Each of these doors is way the heck and gone across this very large room and each one of those doors leads to yet another brand-new room….and so on.

The mind-boggle is that you would not have been able to reach any of the possible brand-new rooms from your original starting point.

If you keep opening doors, who knows where you might end up?

urban-exploration
“Urban Exploration” by Patrick BAUDUIN via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
One interesting riff on the way the world has been disrupted by all the ones who are busily exploring the adjacent possible was published by Heidrick and Struggles International.

The company says they are “a premier provider of senior level Executive Search, Culture Shaping and Leadership Consulting services.”  (The capitals are all theirs.)

The factoids they present in their video, “A Disrupted World,” are amazing.

This video is particularly interesting because it shows the mindset of one of the top headhunter companies in the world….a definite indication that exploring the adjacent possible is an especially valuable way of walking.

CHANGE HAPPENS STEP BY STEP

The thing to remember in all this door-opening and wandering around in the weird places you discover behind all those doors is that most real changes are a gradual process.

The thing just keeps trundling along:  If this happens, then that can happen.  When that happens, then this next thing becomes possible and can happen.

All you have to add is water – your blood, your sweat, and your tears.  (The changes you’d like to see probably doesn’t come with zippy high-velocity elevators and escalators.)

You can, of course, choose to step off a very high cliff, figuring that you’ll build wings on the way down.  After all, that looks like a great short-cut and you’re creative, right?  Sure….

gentle-journey
Gentle Journey” by Domy Kamsyah via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND]
I have to tell you, though, this is not a really good survival strategy — especially if you have the mechanical know-how of a toad and no floating workshop or friendly flying dragon or roc who will rescue you from your Stupid.

HACKING THE ADJACENT POSSIBLE STARTS AT THE THRESHOLD

Unlocking a new door and bravely going where nobody has gone before (and surviving to tell the tale) is tricky.  Ask any Trekkie.  They’ll tell ya.

continued-exploration
“Continued Exploration by skagitrenee via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Basically, you need to figure out ways to explore the edges of the possibilities that now surround you once you get the durned door open.

This can be as simple as changing the physical environment you work in, cultivating a specific kind of social network, or maintaining certain habits in the way you do your work or play your way.

From there you can develop the skills you’ll need to take you to the next level and beyond.

Be aware that you will probably have to shovel out manure and sort through mountains of “nope-doesn’t-work.”

Be aware that there are cliffs and thorns and probably hungry predators in this brave new world of yours.

In the middle of this process of exploring the adjacent possibles you encounter, you may have to re-think your expectations and aspirations and re-vamp your mind-maps yet again in the face of the “not-yet-possible” which is the shadow-side of all this playing around with possibility.

You might also find an utterly amazing adjacent possible that grabs you and everybody else around you by the throat.

As you get good at navigating through the adjacent possibles in your world, you may even figure out how to use those navigational skills to further your dream in more tangible ways.

Here are some cogent thoughts on that by engineer-turned-deep-thinker and skill-development coach Yazan Hijazi in his 2017 video, ‘Innovation vs Creativity Demystified.”

Hijazi explains the difference and the relationship between innovation and creativity beautifully.

Creativity, he says, is getting lots and lots of ideas.  Innovation is about making some of these ideas real and getting people to buy into them or adopt them.

Hijazi tells you innovation comes in two flavors: “incremental” and “disruptive.”  He explains what they are, what they do and what they are for.

In the video he explains how you can use these two types of innovation to explore the edges of the adjacent possibles that surround you (and how to survive and thrive while doing it).

THE DOING IS ALL THERE IS

One of my favorite books is A PATH OF MASTERY:  Lessons on Wing Chun and Life from Sifu Francis Fong by Jim Brault.

In it, Brault reminds us, “In nature growth is gradual.  It takes time, it can’t be forced.”

He asks, “Why are you in such a hurry anyway?  Don’t worry if it takes a long time to learn.  The longer it takes to learn, the longer it will stay with you.”

When you’re playing around with possibilities, it’s good to remember that you have to be able to take action, to do things.   More importantly, you need to learn what to do and what not to do and when.

Learning about how you can do what you want to do is what gets you through that magical room you’re facing and how you get to the next door.

A VISION OF WONDER

This next video, published by The Culture Marketing Council in 2015, is a treat.  It features film-maker, public speaker and television personality Jason Silva, who The Atlantic dubbed “A Timothy Leary of the Viral Video Age.”  Enjoy!

Here’s a poem:


LEVELS

It seems to me always

That there are levels

And levels and levels.

And when you’ve slogged

Your way to the top of one,

And mastered every step along the way,

You find that you are standing

On the threshold of yet another

That beckons you to enter into

Other wonders, other nows.

 

Sometimes you stand there

At this next gateway and sigh,

Knowing that again here is the choice:

You can stay where you are

And be a master, strong and whole,

The one on whom others depend,

Or you can step across the line

And lose it all, become an egg,

A useless chick, fresh-hatched,

Peeping and cheeping potentiality.

 

And that next step

Is the hardest one to take.

It’s not easy, sloughing off

The tried, the true.

And it’s a painfulness to lose

The you that you have made,

An impregnable mountain tower,

High above the world,

A beacon shining, beckoning,

And leading the way.

 

It’s through the birth canal again you go,

So it’s no wonder if you take it kind of slow.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Exploration” by Riccardo Cuppini via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

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SHIFT TO IDLE

SHIFT TO IDLE

This Patreon-backed YouTube video, “The Power of Imagination” published in 2015 by Claw Mountain, got me thinking…..

MY BIG CONFESSION

I am an incorrigible daydreamer.

When I was a kid, of course, there were those Bigs around me who kept predicting dire consequences for the disrespectful, lazy Space Cadet who was not listening, who could not focus, who had the attention span of a flea.

I was told to concentrate.  I was told to go do something.  I was told I had to develop my Work Ethic.  I lost count of the number of times I got the Buckle-Down-and-Soldier-On speech.

I had a hard time as a kid explaining that when I was staring out the window at that rainbow, I was trying to figure out exactly where the thing began and ended and how I could get it to actually stand still so I could, maybe, race over to see what was there at either end of it.

(And, for real, which end is THE end?  Which end is the beginning?)

I was wondering how come trees just know what shape works best for them and they grow that way all by themselves (except for those cool, gnarly-looking bonsai things Mr. Matsumoto played around with).

And I was wondering whether gnats really have brains.  I mean, gee, those gnat brains must really be small, right?

And how come Mama says this, but Aunty says that, and neither one of them agrees with Uncle, but Uncle agrees with Papa and…oh, boy!

Or I wondered what would have happened if I’d been raised by animals like Mowgli or how I would survive if I was shipwrecked on a desert island like the Swiss Family Robinson and what if dragons were really real and on and on.

It was hard for me to articulate that when I was sitting there just staring off into space, I was busy figuring out things, and mostly what I wanted to know about wasn’t exactly what the Bigs said I needed to learn.

And, frankly, what those Bigs thought I needed to know was sort of…well, BORING!  Their tick-tock everyday world just didn’t sparkle all that much.

lil-daydream
“Lil Daydream” by Evan Lavine via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
These days, I’m one of the Bigs.  I know a bit about the Three R’s:  Reasoning and Responsibility and Rationality.  I know some stuff about concentrating and focus and goal-setting and persistence and follow-through and all that grown-up stuff.

I even do it…a lot.

And, still, I daydream.

daydreaming
“Daydreaming” by Paulo Valdivieso via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Anthony Carboni is featured in the YouTube video. “Don’t Stop Daydreaming!” published in 2014 by Seeker.  Carboni is a cool video-maker extraordinaire who has an…ah-hem…werewolf-thing happening in his down-time moments.

The video’s part of a series of DNews (Discovery News) videos on TestTube.

See, it ain’t such a bad thing, this daydreaming.

THE DAYDREAM BELIEVER’S WAY

Smarty-pants Scott Barry Kaufman, co-author of WIRED TO CREATE:  Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, is featured in this YouTube Video, “Mindful Daydreaming Enhances Creativity, Not Meditation Alone.”  It was published in 2016 by Big Think.

In this video Kaufman explains about the two main modes of thought – the planning and strategizing part we exalt in our ever-busy, get-‘er-done world, the executive attention network,” as well as the stealthier, more intuitive part of our mind that  the guys in the lab coats have named “the default mode network” which lets your mind play with possibilities.

The second one is the mode that kicks in when you’re not actively putting out fires or dodging bullets or whatever.

Guys who are into studying ancient wisdoms call it “being in the Now” sometimes or maybe “mindfulness” or “detachment.”

Regular people just call it “daydreaming.”

reflection
“Reflection” by Simon Turkas via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Kaufman points out that you need both in order to do your best creative work.

He argues that if you can balance the two ways of thinking and can toggle back and forth between them, then you break into what Kaufman calls “the imagination network,” where you can use the focusing and planning powers of your executive mode to play around in the world that lies within your very own DMZ (default mode zone).

WALKING THROUGH YOUR DMZ

Walking around inside this edge-state, where your inner world meets the world around you, is the best place that interesting, world-changing breakthroughs can happen, studies have shown.

Ancient wisdom seekers agree.

timeless-bliss-timeless
“Timeless Bliss Timeless” by Hartwig HKD [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Buddhist teacher and author Joan Halifax constructs an analogy between the various mindsets and thought-construct places in our human minds and the areas in the natural world where one ecosystem meets another.

Examples that come to mind are the areas where the edge of the forest meets the leading edge of the wetlands or where the sea meets the shore.

Standing on a high cliff overlooking a canyon is an even more dramatic example.  From that high vantage point, maybe you can even “see forever,” as an old song tells us.

As Halifax points out , “Edges are where opposites meet.”

And then she says,

“Our journey through life is one of peril and possibility—and sometimes both at once. How can we stand on the threshold between suffering and freedom and remain informed by both worlds?”

You can click here to get more of her thoughts:

click-here

 

The Lion’s Roar article is an adapted excerpt of Roshi Halifax’s book, STANDING AT THE EDGE:  Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet.

On a less esoteric level, there are all kinds of examples of how accessing your personal DMZ can lead you to major insights.

Think of that goof-off Isaac Newton, his falling apple, and his Law of Gravity and all the other “aha,” lightbulb moments that produced awesome-good ideas and insights.

Think of the young space cadet Albert Einstein working in a boring civil servant job in the Swiss patent office and his Theory of Relativity.

Think of that champion daydreaming single-mom J.K. Rowling, stuck on the Manchester to London train, and the birth of the Harry Potter books that took the world by storm.

Apparently wondering minds wander and their wandering ways produce incredible insights, understandings, and piles of creative thinks.

DAYDREAMING PRACTICE

In his book, AUTOPILOT:  The Art and Science of Doing Nothing, artificial intelligence scientist and engineer Andrew Smart makes a strong case for spending more time idling.

The only thing not so great about it is that he doesn’t tell you how to “do nothing.”  He just explains what it is and why it’s good.

As Smart says, “Through idleness, great ideas buried in your unconsciousness have the chance to enter your awareness.”

It’s ironic.  After years and years of being told to quit being such a daydreaming lazybones, it turns out that if you want to be a card-carrying creative and meaningfully productive member of post-modern society, you need to be able to climb back into that hazy, small-kid, do-nothing space where playing is the thing.

Learning how to attract prettier butterflies is the new Holy Grail.  Whoo-hoo!

Even guys in business suits have jumped on the bandwagon.

Daydream” by VOFAN via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Brian DeHuff, the co-founder and CEO of Aha!, a roadmap software company that helps products managers create business strategies and keep track of them, presented a five-step program that’s supposed to help you do daydreaming in a purposeful way to Venture Beat.  (Venture Beat is an American technology website that focuses on what they call “Tech News That Matters.”)

Here are DeHuff’s suggestions:

COMMIT TO A TIME.

DeHuff suggests blocking off a distraction-free day during your work-week and holding to it assiduously.  If you can’t devote a whole day to this, then you need to at least set up “dedicated distraction-free times” on your calendar.

You tell your team you’re unavailable during these blocks of time and then, he says, you “keep yourself accountable to the time for creative thinking.”

MAKE IT COUNT.

DeHuff says he prepares for his dedicated daydreaming day by choosing what he’s going to be tackling ahead of time.

He also measures whether the time was a success by figuring out how far he has gotten towards the preset goal.

 ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS.

DeHuff tells you to “create the ideal environment for yourself” that will help you zone-out better.  Everybody’s different, he points out, so your way won’t look like his way.

STAY DISCIPLINED.

DeHuff feels that making a habit of setting aside the time and making a supportive environment for daydreaming isn’t easy, but it will help you reach into what he calls “the flow of deep-thinking” if you keep on persevering.

CREATE SPACE FOR OTHERS.

DeHuff recommends encouraging your team members to set aside their own blocks of time, including coordinating their schedules if necessary.

Hmmm….

My own self, I think that one’s a bit too organized and focused for me.  Aren’t daydreams supposed to be more like that half-sleepy place when you get up from a nap and you are still surrounded by dream-clouds?

daydream
“Daydream” by Dome Sekoser via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
I’m not sure battle-planning a daydream would actually work for me.

Hmmm….

Try this:  Look at a blank wall.  Just stare at it.  Don’t move.  Don’t do anything for five minutes.  (You can time it with a timer if you like.)

Okay.  THAT’S the space you want.  It’s where us poets go when the world has been beating us upside the head again.  Cool, huh?

You can induce and expand that space by doing some routine task or activity like washing the dishes or making a cup of coffee or by taking a warm shower or staring out a window or going out to sit on a grassy hill and watch the clouds go by.

If you need to get up and move, you can go for a meandering walk or go for a slow jog around a block.  You might prefer to do a very slo-mo ch’i kung session or do a wild and crazy dance and spin yourself silly.

sunset-reverie
“Sunset Reverie” by John Nakamura Remy via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Let your mind go wherever it wants to.  Just do that.  Don’t work on making any sense out of the wanderings.  Just let them happen.

Practice doing that and a funny thing will start happening.

If you’ve been beating your head against some obdurate problem and making yourself run around crazy, the thoughts will go swirling around in there, bumping into each other.

Let them.

After a while, if you’re lucky, you’ll fall into a reverie, where all the thoughts quiet down and the only thing left is a kind of white noise roaring in your head.

That’s when you’ll find that hazy space.  Take a breath or three.  Rest yourself in there.

Sometimes, after you’ve been there for a while, an idea will pop up.

Grab it.  Quick!  Write it down.  Maybe it’ll be just the thing you need to get you past all that nose-to-the-grindstone slogging.

And wouldn’t that be a wondrous thing?

Here’s a poem:


WIND THOUGHTS

Wind carves into mountain faces

Sculpting them into fantastic forms.

Wind pushes towering clouds all across the sky,

Or decorates it with pretty feather-clouds that

Settle into thick cloud duvets after a while.

Wind twists and bends trees into macro-bonsai shapes

Or wanders through meadows barely brushing against

The flowers in the grasses.

Gentleness of the breeze ruffling wavelets,

Across the face of still water;

Power in the hurricane,

Uprooting and tossing around anything in its path.

Wind makes changes,

Sometimes slow, sometimes swift,

But ever and always.

Wind can be blocked,

But it is never really stopped,

And the stirrings of butterfly wings, they tell me,

Can start the spinning of a hurricane someplace else.

Wind is the breath of the World,

Circulating through its body

In never-ending patterns,

Always changing, always the same.

 

Gee….

I wonder if the World

Knows how to do ch’i kung?

by Netta Kanoho

Photo credit:  “Midwinter’s daydream” by Natalia Medd via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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CHOOSE YOUR DELUSION WELL (Another IPS)

CHOOSE YOUR DELUSION WELL (Another IPS)

Yeah, I know.  It’s what I tell myself all of the time, echoing the I Ching and assorted other wise guys and smarty-pants, ancient and new:  The goal is getting to clarity.

Right.

The problem with that one, of course, is that I’m such a little thing and the Universe is really, REALLY huge.

What are the odds that I’m ever really going to be able to know enough to make sense out of it all?

How likely is it that I’ll be the know-it-all who can suss out the Whopper Mystery and the All of Everything – even with the help of all these electronic devices and beaucoup-pile of databases and stacks of books and that?

Uh….hmmm….

IT’S A DILEMMA, ALL RIGHT.

As far as I can tell there are just two basic stances you can take when you start dancing your Tao Dance.   There are ongoing, long-standing arguments for either one.

  1. Everybody and everything is against you and they’re all out to get you.
  2. The world all around you is conspiring to do you good.

The first stance is so old it has an established name.  It’s called “paranoia.”

paranoia
“Paranoia” by katie weilbacher via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Google will tell you that “paranoia” is a noun that means, “a mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically elaborated into an organized system.”

The entry warns that this “may be an aspect of chronic personality disorder, of drug abuse, or of a serious condition such as schizophrenia in which the person loses touch with reality.”

The second one has a made-up name that’s slowly making its way into dictionaries and such: “pronoia.”

little-hand
“Little hand” by ePi.Longo via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Wikipedia credits a psychologist, Dr. Fred H. Goldner of Queens College in New York City, as the probable official coiner of the name.  The good doctor wrote an article in 1982 that was published in the academic journal Social Problems. 

That article, titled “Pronoia,” detailed a phenomenon that is the positive mirror-image of the more established social delusion we call paranoia.

Goldner said that there are those among us who take the social complexity and ambiguity we encounter in the modern world and rearrange the events and circumstances that we all encounter in our lives into a story of support, connection, and well-wishing.

They carry this story with them and the actions that arise out of it are very different than the ones engendered by the paranoia paradigm.

The ideas in Goldner’s article resonated (and continues to resonate) with a lot of people.

Just six years later, in 1988, author Paulo Coelho came out with a novel, THE ALCHEMIST.  In it the protagonist, a young Andalusian shepherd boy, dreams about traveling in search of an extravagant worldly treasure that will fulfill his every wish.

From his home in Spain, Santiago journeys to the markets of Tangier and across the Egyptian desert and has a bunch of adventures before encountering an old, wise man called “the Alchemist.”

The wise old magic guy encourages the boy on his quest telling the boy, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” 

And so Santiago goes on.

Thirty years later, the book is still going strong.

This YouTube video, “Paulo Coelho on Luck, Coincidence and Faith” was published in   2008 by HarperOne (an imprint of HarperCollins) to celebrate the book as a “modern classic.”

At the time, 22 million copies of the book – two million of which were in English — had been sold worldwide.

Nine years later, in 2017, Jubilee published the next YouTube video entitled, “How the Universe Is On Your Side” as part of their Patreon campaign called Dear Humanity.

The idea continues to gain ground, it seems.

MY OWN THINKING

All of this stuff got me thinking about how each of these two seemingly opposing and (equally delusional) systems of thought-constructs might affect the way you walk through the world.

Which point of view colors your days with rainbows and fills it with bouquets of sweet-smelling flowers?

Which one peoples your world with smiles and laughter and kindness all around?

Which filter would be likely to lead you to view the world with brighter eyes and more joy?

We humans are lucky.  We get to choose the glasses we want to wear.  It is, more than anything else, our birthright – just because we’re human.

In my perambulations through the multi-versal Internet, I ran across yet another YouTube video, just published in 2018 by EntertainHumorousVlooper.  It’s called, “When You Want Something All the Universe Conspires in Helping You Achieve It.

So that’s why I came up with this thing:

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an increasing tendency towards radical trust in the Universe.  [It’s a cool thing to feel that there’s a conspiracy afoot to enhance your well-being.  Hawaiians say, “Akua take care.”]

Here’s a poem:


PUNAHELE

 

Punahele, a precious child of the heart…

That’s me, a favored child of the Universe.

(You are one too.)

We are made of the same stuff as

Rainbows and stars and mighty butterfly wings.

For us, the all-there-is

Opens its arms in welcome,

An invitation to dance

In the abundance that is the Universe.

 

Come on…

We can go

Stomping in all the mud puddles

Down some long dirt road…

We can lie quiet on some hillside

Watching the clouds roll by

In a stately dance. 

We can ride the biggest wave,

Fly so high, delve so deep

That we break into another space

That’s every bit as fine as this one.

 

We can turn our hands

To all the tasks the world requires

And at the end of a long day,

We can rest in the peace

That settles over us,

The peace that comes from Done.

 

We can hug and love and fool around all warm,

Holding hands, all of us together

As we walk each other home.

We can brave the deepest shadows,

Spending our light on

Helping each other see the

Sparkles hidden in the deepest depths,

Clambering over crystals grown

Bigger than the oldest trees.

 

We are punahele,

And all of this…

ALL of this

Is our birthright.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Half the Trouble’s In the Asking,” by Thomas Hawk via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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SET UP YOUR OWN RULES

SET UP YOUR OWN RULES

I am fascinated by rules.  I haven’t run across a rule yet that doesn’t make sense or have some relevance in a particular circumstance or situation.

Rules are always relative.  They depend on who you are, where you are, what you are doing, and how you want to do it.

Rules are, I think, a fundamental part of every structure, every process, every game, and every lifestyle.  Humans have used the power of rules to build religions and construct philosophies and organize sciences.

If you set them up right, rules are a way for you to just do it – whatever it is – without having to re-think every step every time.

Ideally, you should be able to use your rules to remind yourself of the choices you’ve already made so that every time you come to a crossroads the direction you’re going to take has already been predetermined.

rules
“Rules” by Marcin Wichary via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Rules are a kind of shorthand for all the choices you’ve made among the various ways you can (or want) to act when you interact with the world around you.

The biggest benefit to you in having well-defined set of rules connected to a variety of situations is that you don’t have to waste brain power trying to decide which way to go whenever you come across something you’ve done before.

You don’t have to power up your brain neurons.  They’ve been there; they’ve done that.  All you have to do is go.

Look all around you and all you see are rules, rules, and more rules.

Ancient wisdom guys just pile on the rules, assuring us that following this or that set of rules will get us to a good place.  (They know this works, they say, because of all the precedents and traditions and stuff which are just other names for rules.)

The guys in the lab coats will all tell you that making up rules are how us humans make sense of this very confusing world.

If we didn’t make up rules for ourselves — belt ourselves up and box ourselves in — we’d be so overwhelmed by all the incoming data from the world around us that we’d just stand there paralyzed and unable to move.

We are hard-wired to cringe away from uncertainty.  The chance that our very next step is likely to pitch us off a cliff or into some very toothy predator-mouth makes us want some guidelines, some maps…something or somebody telling us what to do.

follow-my-leader
“Follow My Leader” via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
It’s an important survival trait for us humans.

Whether any of the rules we adopt as our own are effective or not will often depend on the people around us (also known as Society or Family or Friends) and how well their sets of rules mesh or interact with our own.

A LEGACY OF RULE-MONGERING

My fascination with rules does not mean that I’m going to follow every durned rule I encounter.  It just means I like looking at them, deconstructing them, seeing the why behind them and watching where following them takes you.

I think this is probably a legacy from my Grandma, the Rebel-Without-A-Pause, who raised me.

It is ironic in a way.

The woman was a force of nature who did what she wanted when she wanted and how she wanted.  There was not a rule made she could not dismantle by using some other rule as a lever.

She was an impossible woman and I loved her dearly.

our-get-along-shirt
“Our Get-Along Shirt” by James H. via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
For me, growing up, she was The Rule Factory.  Mama had more rules on tap than anybody else I knew.  I was the wild child she tried to impose them on.

Her ground rules were very simple.  There were only two.

  1. Stay safe.
  2. Do no harm.

From that foundation flowed an incredible variety and array of rules and sub-rules and precepts and corollaries and such that could make your head spin if you actually stopped to consider them.

Living and dealing with Mama and her rule-making propensities taught me one very important lesson:  In any game, if you set up the rules, you can always win.

THE THING ABOUT RULES

For most people, their life-rules are just a given.  These rules are subconscious — unexamined bits of an assortment of hints and allegations, life-hacks and commandments — often imposed on us (when we are way too young to defend ourselves) by the people around us.

Somebody or other once pointed out that most people live from rules and standards and expectations they received before they were six years old.

These rules are rarely systematic and are often contradictory with little built-in flexibility.    Sometimes these rules can be self-sabotaging and self-defeating.  Sometimes they can be positively toxic.

(Hey, when you’re little, what do YOU know?  Everybody knows better than you, right?)

There’s an old Jesuit maxim that goes, “Give me the child for the first seven years and I will give you the man.”

follow-me
“Follow Me” by Lestexian via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
This saying is widely attributed to Ignatius of Loyola, the Spanish Basque Catholic priest and theologian who founded the Jesuit religious order.

Saint Iggy lived from 1491 to 1556, but the idea that by the time a child is seven he or she has been loaded up with all the rules and such that will pretty much determine how that individual will behave and react to the world is an ancient concept.

Everybody you will ever meet carries around a whole backpack of rules – ideas of how the world works that determine and dictate how they (and you) are supposed to act and how they (and you) are supposed to feel as you make your way through the world.

Few people recognize what most of the rules they live by are.

They hardly remember that many of these hard and fast rules are actually ideas and constructs imposed on them by other people.

They probably don’t even notice whether these rules support or prevent them from experiencing emotions they consider most important or living the life they want to live.

Often, because they don’t even know the rules they are living, these people will do things that are detrimental to how they say they want to be walking.

Even if they are feeling the need to change the way they do things, they keep making the same old moves that they’ve already found to be ineffective over and over again.

After all, they tell themselves, this is the way the world is supposed to be, right?  Acting this way and not that is supposed to work, right?  So, why isn’t it working?

living-in-a-box
“Living in a Box” by cristian via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Good questions, huh?

SO, WHAT’S THE ANSWER?

If you feel life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for you, maybe those rules you are following are like a badly fitted pair of shoes.  They may be excellent, high-quality shoes, but they just aren’t right for your feet.

Let’s parse it out….

  • Let’s say the life-rules you are currently following arise from other people’s ways of seeing the world.
  • Now let’s say that the way you see the world is not the same as those other people’s perspectives.
  • Okay, now think about it: How likely is it that all of these rules you were gifted with or that you inherited are going to be the ones that will get you to where you are doing what you most want to do?

Hmmm.

FINDING THE RULES THAT FIT

Maybe it’s time to go take a look at all those rules you’ve been following (probably from early childhood) that have not worked for you.

I do have to issue one caveat:  Nobody else is going to be able to do this part for you.  It’s your rules, after all, just as the stupid shoes that gives you blisters and bunions are your shoes.

A shoe salesman can make suggestions, but you’re the one who puts on those things and checks out how they feel on your feet.  You’re the one who decides whether they look good on you.

shoe-store-in-trinidad
“Shoe Store in Trinidad” by Bud Ellison via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Also, be aware that this rule-finding expedition is an exploratory process that won’t get solved by taking a 15-minute quiz.

You didn’t grow your rules in a day, and there’s probably a whole pile of them in there, all gnarly and tangled-up in a mass.

[Look at that.  Even making your own rules has rules!]

It’ll probably help if you set up a notebook and grab something to write with when you’re doing this.

That way you’ll notice when you start repeating yourself and when you get stuck in yet another tangle of thoughts.

First, just notice the rules you are following.  Look for the default set of actions you take in certain situations.

When you’ve got a pile of them stacked up, start asking yourself why you do this and not that.  Try to find the underlying reasoning behind your actions.

When you start finding a common theme running through several sets of default actions that you take without thinking very much about it, you’ve probably discovered one of your hidden rules.

  1. Do you like how following this rule make you feel?
  2. Are the actions that you take as a result of following this rule congruent with the values and principles that you hold most dear?
  3. Do the results you get from following this rule make you feel good about yourself and the world?
  4. Do you like the places that following this rule are taking you?
  5. Are you satisfied with the life you live when you follow this rule?

If you answer “yes” to these questions about a rule, then the rule that you found is keeper.

If the answer is “no” to each of these questions, dump the rule.  Look for alternative options.

If the answer is, “it depends,” then you have probably found that the rule you are following is layered and nuanced and you’ll need to dig deeper to ferret out all the whys and wherefores for each of the connected pragmatic moves.  It’s a sign that you haven’t reached down to your layer of ground rules yet.

Keep on running each new rule discovery through this process – dump, keep, dump, dump, keep.

Eventually you’ll start to see the shape of the rules that work for you.  You will begin to refine the collection of the ground rules that you want to govern your actions and your life.

explored
“Explored” by Ahladini Alapati via Flickr [CC-NC 2.0]
The funny thing about all this is that as you focus on what works for you and what does not, the process will start to snowball.

You won’t even have to worry about making new rules.  They’ll just show up all on their own without fail.  (Remember my Grandma, the Rule Factory?  Rules are really easy to make up.)

more-rules-for-the-teacher
“More Rules for the Teacher” via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
When these new rules arrive, you’ll be better able to decide whether the newbies might be an effective way for you to move.

Then it’s back to asking the questions and dump, dump, dump, keep, dump, and so on.  After a while it gets to be automatic.

When other people suggest rules to add to your pile, you can just run them through this process and decide for yourself whether the proposed rule would work for you and not against you.

Lori Deschene has an excellent blog about the rules she has developed for her own life walk that she first wrote published in 2009.

Click this button and you can enjoy her thoughts on the subject.  (I agree with them wholeheartedly.)  click-here

FINAL TAKE

This YouTube video, “In Unorganized Baseball Games, Kids Play By Their Own Rules” was a “Sunday Closer” published by TODAY.com in 2017.  It’s a lovely reminder of one of the greatest benefits of playing by your own rules.

Here’s a poem:

__________

RULES FOR ASKING

Ask and it shall be given,

Seek and ye shall find.

It sounds so easy, doesn’t it?

Just manifest what’s in your mind.

 

Yeah, right.

Except….

 

When you ask Dad for the keys to the Universe,

It’s good if you already know how to drive.

You have to really mean it, really want it,

‘Cause the old guy just won’t take your shuck and jive.

 

The asking has to be wholehearted,

And the granting of your wish comes at a cost.

Before you ask, be sure you know the price tag.

Is the treasure gained worth the asset lost?

 

You cannot ask for something that’s not righteous,

For something that will harm some other one.

If you’ve given all your heart for a falseness,

Then the Real will eat you up just for fun.

 

Making ultimatums and Or-Elses,

Trying to dictate how and what will be,

You’ll be all misaligned and nothing you will find,

For you guarantee your hands will come up empty.

 

Your arrogance will boomerang back on you

As you watch your dreams evaporate and die.

Without humility, your wants will never be

And every path you take end in a lie.

 

So…

If you really want to see your heart’s desire,

Be kind and stand upright and true.

Talk softly from the heart, and really mean it,

And maybe the Real will listen to you.

by Netta Kanoho

___________

Header photo credit:  “Anne’s Boots Rock” by Mike Baird via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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